Vix Employee Spotlight – Tony Bom, Senior Software Engineer
13 June 2023, Italy
This month we shine the Employee Spotlight on Senior Software Engineer, Tony Bom from Vix Italy.
Tony’s drive and determination over the past 14 years working at Vix, is fuelled by his passion for programming and unwavering resilience in the face of challenges. Tony’s dedication to his craft and his refusal to give up make him a valuable asset to Vix.
Read on to learn more about Tony.
How did you get your start here at Vix?
ERG Transit Systems (now Vix Technology) hired me as a consultant back in 2008. I worked in the Rome office, which was created to support the AFC system in the same city. When that contract finished, I suggested removing the consultancy agency in the middle and hiring me directly. ERG saw value in that, and the rest is history. I was hired as a Windows Visual C++ programmer. I wrote my first windows visual C++ program during the job interview; I came from a pure Unix/Linux environment.
What is your current role?
I am a Senior Software Engineer in the loosest sense of the word possible. I program everything along the entire spectrum of AFC software; devices, front-office, back-office, and everything in between. I even helped design some hardware. Since we are a relatively small office here in Rome, you assume the role that is, at that moment, necessary in any given project. There is no strict hierarchy, which is a blade that cuts at both ends. Apart from all this, I am the only surviving member who knows the Rome AFC system throughout (yes, it is still running after 24 years and still on the same hardware) and therefore the sole reference of anything MASS/AFC related here.
What would you say drives you?
I guess what drives me is a keen interest in my actual skill set (programming in the broad sense), and my obstinate refusal to give up at setbacks. I hardly ever go to bed if I have not solved a particular problem. This often creates problems, but more often solves them. I like solving problems.
What is your current focus/project?
In a small working environment, there is unfortunately no single focus. I juggle at this precise moment around four projects, apart from ongoing support on at least three AFC systems that we have out there. My focus at the moment is the device software I wrote for the Rome BUS validators (a third party supplied hardware) and the associated back-office, which I also developed.
I just now deployed this software to around 3000 validators in the field and am monitoring anything that is going wrong and am tweaking the software, adjusting the release OTA. The main addition to this software, in respect to the previous, is the support for QR and EMV. Apart from this, it supports the traditional ABT cards of the Rome legacy MASS systems, and supports all file formats of MASS. A mix between old and new.
What does your role bring to the business?
Here in Italy, we are very solution and client orientated. Clients are known to want solutions quickly, preferable yesterday. Then it often boils down to management saying, “I don’t care how you do it, just get it done, and fast”. I am that person that gets it done.
What are some of the changes you have seen here at Vix since you started?
I have seen it all happening throughout the years. The various changes in ownership and associated consequences. To be honest we have always been quite isolated here in Rome. Up to 2008, the Vix Perth office did the software development and maintenance for the back-office here in Rome, and Vix Belgium office did the device software. In 2009, we took everything into our own hands and operated rather independently. This has recently changed, and we feel that we are more connected to Vix’s ‘big picture’.
What are some of the more significant changes you have seen with transit since you started?
I think transit per se has not changed in the last 2000 years. You want to get from A to B and you pay someone to achieve this. It is the way you pay for it that has changed significantly over the years and more so recently. From impact printer validated paper tickets to paying “real-time” with EMV with your smartwatch.
What is something that has surprised you about your chosen career path?
That I am actually good at what I am doing. For a long time, I had serious doubts about that. I was never a model student and got by with minimum effort to maximum results. I succeeded in my career (and school) because the subject (programming) interests me limitlessly and I work hard when I have to.
How do you wind down after work?
I build wood furniture and work on completely renovating my house in the country. Electricity, water, heating, building walls, tiling, cementing, flooring, painting, drywall; you name it, I do it.
How do you describe what you do for a living to family and friends?
It is very hard to explain to outsiders. I do not think my family has an idea what I actually do. Software engineering is a very abstract concept for people outside the trade. For years, “Something with computers” was the go-to sentence. When they start to complain about the slowness of their Windows computer and ask me to do something about it I go a little more into detail and try to explain that I know nothing about personal computers and construct massive back-office server software systems.
What are some things you have noticed about our leadership team?
I truly believe our leadership team has a valid vision in trying to create a globally connected workforce. However, in my personal opinion and experience, there are too many practical and cultural issues involved to make that work efficiently. That does not take away that I sincerely subscribe to the theory and try to implement it where and when I can.
What is the most unique part about working here?
It might sound like a cliché, but I think the unique part is working on something that millions of people are using every single day. My wife complains to me when a validator on a bus does not work. In addition, in our particular reality in the office here in Rome, I actually get to see literally every aspect of a transit system.
Seen anything lately that made you smile?
Looking at my wife and realising how lucky I am makes me smile every day.